Identity Theft

DISCLAIMER – With all the data breach and identity theft issues we wanted to share what we have read and learned in the past few years.  The following may not be all inclusive.  This process is updated by the government and other federal and state agencies.   We ask you to please verify your next step when reporting to the official agencies (FTC, credit bureau, etc.) as you go through the process.  If anything, the following will help you start the process if your identity is stolen or your personal financial information has been compromised.

We have this section divided in the following categories:

  • Identity Theft
  • Data Breaches and Lost or Stolen Information
  • Social Security Number Compromised
  • Business Identity Theft
  • Tips to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft

WHAT SHOULD YOU DO?:

Are you or do you believe you are a victim of Identity Theft?  If you are our client please call us right away.  If you are a victim of identity theft you must deal with the issue right away.  You may want to hire a professional to assist you in this process.  Below are some steps to take should your information become compromised.

What to do immediately:

  1. Report the theft to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at IdentityTheft.gov or 1-877-438-4338. If you report the theft on the FTC’s website, be sure to print a copy of your filed report. Likewise, if you call to report identity theft, have the FTC send you a copy of the report.
  2. Contact one of the three credit bureaus to place a fraud alert. This is free and will make it difficult for the thief to open new accounts in your name.
    1. Experian.com    1-888-397-3742
    2. TransUnion.com 1-800-680-7289
    3. Equifax.com    1-888-766-0008
  3. Call the company or companies where the fraud occurred. Ask them to close the account(s).  You want to close any financial institution or credit accounts opened without your permission or tampered with by the identity thieves.  Examples of companies where fraudulent accounts might be setup in your name without you knowing it:  Mortgage companies, credit cards, utility and phone companies, government benefit offices, checking accounts, student loans, apartment or house rentals, investment accounts, and bankruptcy.
  4. Change logins, passwords (your password should be at least 10-12 characters long using upper and lower case letters, numbers and special characters) and PINS for all your accounts.
  5. You might want to file a report with your local police department. Be sure to take a copy of the FTC Identity Theft Report, photo ID, proof of your address (mortgage statement or utility bill) and any other proof you have of the theft.
  6. Both the Internal Revenue Service and Department of Revenue in your State should be contacted.

Then, start to repair the damage:

  1. Close new accounts opened in your name. Call the fraud department of each business where an account was opened by the thief.  Tell them that someone stole your identity, ask them to close the account and have them send you a letter stating the account isn’t yours, you are not responsible for it and that it was removed from your credit report.
  2. Remove bogus charges from current accounts. Call the fraud department of every business where a bogus charge appears, explaining that someone stole your identity, asking them to remove the charges and send a letter confirming the charges were removed.
  3. Correct your credit report. Write a letter to each of the three credit bureaus.  Include with the letter, a copy of your Identity Theft Report and a copy of your pictured ID.  Point out which information is fraudulent and ask them to block that information.  Mail your letters to:
    1. TransUnion
      • Fraud Victim Assistance Department
      • P.O. Box 2000
      • Chester, PA  19022-2000
    2. Equifax
      1. P.O. Box 105069
      2. Atlanta, GA  30348-5069
    3. Experian
      1. P.O. Box 9554
      2. Allen, TX  75013
  4. Extended fraud alert or credit freeze. You can use one of these methods to prevent further misuse of your personal information.  The differences are as follows:
    1. Extended Fraud Alert. Permits access to your credit report but takes more steps to verify your identity, it’s free to place and remove if someone stole your identity, lasts for 7 years, and is set by contacting each of the three credit bureaus:
      1. TransUnion.com/fraud 1-800-680-7289
      2. Experian.com/fraudalert 1-888-397-3742
      3. Equifax.com/CreditReportAssistance 1-888-766-0008
    2. Credit Freeze stops all access to your report unless you lift or remove the freeze, there may be a small fee for placing, lifting and removing, lasts until you lift or remove, and is set by contacting each of the 3 credit bureaus:
      1. TransUnion.com/freeze 1-888-909-8872
      2. Experian.com/freeze 1-888-397-3742
      3. Freeze.Equifax.com 1-800-349-9960
  5. Secure any information not compromised.

DATA BREACHES AND LOST OR STOLEN INFORMATION

So many times we hear companies reporting they had a data breach.  What does this mean for you?  Most times the company will offer free credit monitoring to the people who may be affected.  If you feel your personal information might have been involved take advantage of this and review your report for any accounts or charges you don’t recognize.

Your identity can be stolen in so many different ways:  Social security number, online login or password, debit or credit card number, bank account information, driver’s license information, or your children’s personal information.

The best way to be sure your identity hasn’t been stolen is by monitoring your credit report for false charges and bogus accounts.  A report can be ordered from each of the three credit bureaus free once a year at annualcreditreport.com.  If you see that someone has been using your information, follow the above guidelines, noted under Identity Theft, in order to stop the thief and repair your credit.

YOUR SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER MIGHT HAVE BEEN COMPROMISED, PUTTING YOU AT IDENITY THEFT RISK WHEN:

Your electronic filed individual income tax return is rejected.  There could be legitimate reasons for your return being rejected, i.e., transposed numbers with your social security number, a new spouse may not have changed their last name with the social security administration, etc.  Your tax professional will be able to guide you as to why the return was rejected.  If it is rejected because a return was already filed using you or your spouse’s social security number or a dependent’s social security number was claimed on another return, it is a very high chance your social security number was compromised.

You always want to give your tax professional notices you receive from the federal, state or local government.  The social security number thieves will attempt to send you notices claiming a balance due.  The notice looks like it is from the Internal Revenue Service.  Your tax professional will be able to advise you as to the accuracy and legitimacy of the balance due notice.  Also let your tax professional know if you receive a notice from the IRS indicating you received wages or other income from sources who are unknown to you.

If your social security number is compromised you should submit Form 14039 to the IRS.

BUSINESS IDENTITY THEFT:

Business identity theft happens when the thieves use the identity information of a business to obtain tax credits.  The thieves will file fraudulent returns to receive refundable business credits.  Warning signs include:

  1. You receive a letter from IRS stating your return is accepted. The problem is the return for that particular year has not yet been filed.
  2. You receive an IRS notice about fictitious employees.
  3. You receive an IRS notice regarding a closed business after all balances have been paid.

TIPS TO PROTECT YOURSELF FROM IDENTITY THEFT:

  1. Don’t carry your social security card or anything that contains your social security number (SSN) or individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN).
  2. Don’t give a business your SSN or ITIN just because they ask. Only give it if it is required.  You should never give your social security number over the phone.
  3. Protect your computer with firewalls and anti-spam and anti-virus software. Be sure to set on automatic updates.
  4. Check your credit report and/or Social Security Administration earnings once a year.
  5. Protect your personal and financial information.
  6. Don’t give out personal information over the phone, in the mail or on the internet unless you have initiated contact with the business or you are sure you know who you are dealing with. We want to emphasis, in today’s world of identity theft, you should never have to give your social security number over the phone.

For more security awareness tips, please refer to “Recap on Security” under “Scams & Security”.

DISCLAIMER – The information contained in this document may not be all inclusive.  We rely on the government and federal and state agencies for this information.  If you are a victim of identity theft, we ask you to please verify your next step when reporting to the official agencies (FTC, credit bureau, etc.) as you go through the process.  The above is only intended to be a guideline for what to do should you suspect identity theft.